Former Vellekamp Student Receives Special Award
By Hugh M. Carola
For the first time in the five-year history of the Ron Vellekamp Environmental Scholarship, a second grant has been awarded under the program. Andrew Lala, a graduate of Ridgefield Memorial High School, was chosen to receive special recognition and the second $1,000 scholarship. As reported in the Spring issue of Hackensack Tidelines, Jersey City’s Timothy Den Herder Thomas received this year’s scholarship honors.
Andrew’s essay caught the attention of the program’s judges. “Mr. Vellekamp was my seventh grade Social Studies teacher.” Ron Vellekamp was a Trustee of the Hackensack Riverkeeper and an educator in Ridgefield.
It was clear that not only had Andrew studied under Ron but he had clearly taken to heart what he learned from his teacher. He started in middle school by picking up trash and using recycled paper. By senior year, Andrew was operating a successful and environmentally friendly landscaping business with his best friend, another former student of Ron’s.
“All of us were deeply moved by his story. I decided to share it with our Trustees to see if there might be some way we could recognize Andrew’s achievements,” recalled Captain Bill Sheehan, executive director of Hackensack Riverkeeper®.
On June 1, the Board of Trustees of Hackensack Riverkeeper® voted unanimously to bestow on Andrew a Special Hackensack Riverkeeper Award and $1000 in recognition of his putting into practice the lessons taught him by “Mr. Vel,” as his students called him.
This fall, Andrew will attend the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland to major in Landscape Architecture.
“I’m convinced that Mr. Vel’s instilling an appreciation, and most importantly, a respect for the environment in me has contributed greatly to what I am about to embark on,” Andrew wrote. “Even though he’s gone, I’m consoled by the fact that I’ve chosen to dedicate my life to a profession which he would surely have had a passion for.”
Previous Article | Next Article
Return to News Page